Miracast certification begins, with Intel on board

There hasn't been a ton of buzz out there about Miracast, the Wi-Fi Alliance's new wireless display standard. That's too bad, because the standard seems to have potential. It promises ubiquitous wireless streaming of content between, say, phones and TVs, or even laptops and projectors. Support for protected content is in the mix, as is "simplified discovery and setup," according to the Wi-Fi Alliance. Best of all, a Wi-Fi network isn't required—devices should be able to connect to each other directly via Wi-Fi Direct.

This morning, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced that it has begun certifying the first wave of Miracast-enabled devices. Among the freshly certified products are a pair of smartphones, LG's Optimus G and Samsung's Galaxy S III, as well as a line of televisions, the Samsung Echo-P Series. The Wi-Fi Alliance's announcement also includes the following list of products, which have not only received certification, but also "form the test suite for the certification program:"

  • Broadcom Dualband 11n WiFi
  • Intel® WiDi
  • Marvell Avastar USB-8782 802.11n 1x1 Dual-band Reference Design
  • MediaTek a/b/g/n Dualband Mobile Phone Client, MT662X_v1 and DTV Sink, MV0690
  • Ralink 802.11n Wireless Adapter, RT3592
  • Realtek Dual-band 2x2 RTL8192DE HM92D01 PCIe Half Mini Card and RTD1185 RealShare Smart Display Adapter

Among the Wi-Fi cards, dongles, and display adapters is the name of Intel's own wireless display offering: WiDi, or Wireless Display. WiDi has been around for some time and, until now, has had nothing to do with Miracast. What gives?

We spoke with Intel yesterday to shed some light on the subject. It turns out that the upcoming WiDi 3.5 update is going to introduce support for the Miracast standard, among a handful of new features and improvements. In the words of the chipmaker:

Intel has built in WFA Miracast support into the latest Intel WiDi 3.5 software release which will be pre-installed on new systems this Holiday season and available for existing users with Intel WiDi on a 2nd or 3rd Gen Intel Core processor based system.

(For the geeks out there, 2nd- and 3rd-gen Core are Intel's brand names for Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors, respectively.)

Along with espousing Miracast, WiDi 3.5 will add support for Windows 8, 3D content, and USB devices. USB support will allow devices like keyboards, mice, and game controllers plugged into TVs or receivers to control WiDi connected systems like smartphones or notebooks. Oh, and Intel says it's reduced WiDi latency quite a bit—down to just 60 ms on Ivy Bridge processors. (Folks with Sandy Bridge chips will apparently be stuck at 250 ms, the same latency as with WiDi 2.x.) The drop in latency should make user interaction feel much more responsive, especially when touch input is involved. As I understand it, though, Intel doesn't guarantee that level of performance with all Miracast-capable gear—only WiDi hardware.

In a nutshell, Intel says WiDi 3.5 will simply offer a "superset of features" over Miracast.

This is good news for users. Come this fall, a whole host of folks with existing, WiDi-capable Intel machines should gain the ability to use Miracast devices wirelessly. Future WiDi-capable systems will ship with Miracast support out of the box, too. That also bodes well for Miracast, since having a large existing installed base could help speed up adoption and encourage more devices makers to join in.

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